Long Story $hort Episode 1

Getting Out of Credit Card Debt Starts with Asking for Help

Jordan Zangara’s debt journey started when he was laid off from his job in New York City. When he later moved to Atlanta for a new career opportunity, Jordan began accumulating credit card debt while funding his arrival in a new city.

When the pandemic hit, Jordan realized he needed to make a change in his financial future and contacted Money Management International for help. Since working with the debt relief counselors at MMI, he paid off $35,000 in 18 months.

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Show Notes

  • Guest: Jordan Zangara
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Jordan Zangara: Take action early. I mean, I could have taken action earlier than I did, but I was still within that window that, you know, my accounts hadn't gone to collections yet. There was no legal action. So I was in a position where, you know, my creditors were willing to negotiate.

[00:00:23] Adam Walker: Debt. We've all heard of it. Most of us have it. Debt is an almost unavoidable reality of life. But what happens when it starts consuming life? The experts at Money Management International believe that financial challenges aren't meant to be faced alone.

On this podcast, we hear stories of people whose lives have been changed by MMI’s role as their toughest coach and loudest cheerleader. Their stories are unique, personal, and inspiring. So stay tuned, because we're sharing each guest’s Long Story Short.

Today on the show, I'm talking with Jordan Zangara. Jordan lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While working with the debt relief counselors at MMI, Jordan paid off $35,000 in 18 months. Here to share his story and more about his experience working with Money Management International is Jordan Zangara.

Jordan, welcome to Long Story Short.

[00:01:30] Jordan Zangara: Thanks for having me, Adam.

[00:01:31] Adam Walker: Man, I'm excited to hear your story. That is just a colossal number in a very minuscule amount of time. And I'm kind of in awe of it. I'm not going to lie but like, but before we get to that, let's start with you. Give us the one-minute flyover. Like, who are you?

Where are you at? What are your days look like?

[00:01:49] Jordan Zangara: Sure. So as you said, my name's Jordan Zangara, I'm 34 years old currently in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I'm originally from a small town in central Pennsylvania but have lived all over the east coast. I've lived in Philadelphia, New York City, Atlanta and have most recently found myself here in Pittsburgh.

And for work, I am a Business Development Manager for a national corporate law firm. That's me.

[00:02:18] Adam Walker: Well, that sounds entertaining for work by day. So, so let's get into your debt story here. I mean, you paid off a ton of money in a very short amount of time. What was happening in your life when you became a client of MMI?

And was there anything in particular that sort of sparked that breaking point or where you knew you needed to get outside help?

[00:02:39] Jordan Zangara: Yeah, so my debt journey kind started when I was living in New York City. I was working for a consulting firm who ended up consolidating their business development and marketing department, resulting in getting me getting laid off.

And as a lot of people that live in New York know it's not an easy place to save money. So it's not like I had a lot of time to stick around and look for a new job. And after a few weeks I decided the best course of action, of not finding anything, the best course of action was for me to leave the city go back home and spend the time there trying to find my next my next gig.

And that way I wasn't pouring more and more money into New York City rent. So it took a few months for me to land the next job. And by the time that came around, I had perfect, not perfect, but good credit, but barely any savings left. And the job that I found was in Atlanta. I had to move myself down there, furnish a place to live, buy a car. Because that was something I did not need in New York.

All at the same time. And the only way that I could feasibly do that was to start charging things to my credit card. And it just kind of snowballed. I, you know, I thought I was going to be able to pay it all back and I just, I couldn't end up getting ahead of it. But, you know, for all the downsides of the pandemic that we've been in during the last two years it was kind of the silver lining of it for me, personally, was the fact that I wasn't leaving the house, naturally, you know, helped lower my expenses.

And you know, I've landed a new job, literally three months or three weeks before the pandemic actually hit, which raised my income substantially. So I knew I was in a better position to tackle this mountain of debt that I had taken on. So I knew, but I knew I wasn't gonna be able to do it on my own.

I knew that, you know, I was still only making minimum payments and those balances weren't going anywhere. If anywhere they were going up. So I started looking into, researching options, into consolidating all of those payments into one payment and I came across MMI. Read a lot of reviews, did a lot of research and you know, finally took the leap.

When I decided, you know I can't live like this financially, mentally. You know, constantly feeling like I'm in a hole that I can't dig myself out of. So I, I went to MMI, they got me on a payment plan. They worked with my creditors and finally put me in a position to really start chipping away at that debt that I had.

[00:05:52] Adam Walker: Yeah. Wow, that's fantastic. So, so then let's kind of talk through that process. So you started working with MMI and in that process, again, just to reiterate to our listeners, you paid off $35,000 in 18 months, which is amazingly fast. Like I'm really curious. What are some of the challenges that you faced along the way with that?

And what are some of the lessons that you learned about our financial systems or just about yourself?

[00:06:18] Jordan Zangara: Yeah. So, you know, like I was saying there were unique benefits to the pandemic that allowed me to tackle this as quickly as I did. I don't think I know for a fact I wouldn't have been able to do it as quickly as I did if it wasn't for the changes that occurred because of the pandemic.

I ended up, after a year of working remotely in Atlanta, I ended up moving back home which saved a considerable amount of money and allowed me to pay it off as quickly as I did. I would have been able to stick to my plan had I stayed in Atlanta but I was able to expedite it thanks to the opportunity that the new remote working paradigm offered.

But some of the challenges were, you know, MMI was great at negotiating with my creditors on interest rates and consolidating that into one payment every month, but it was still a considerable payment it was significantly more than my car payment just on my debt.

So, you know, I still, and some of those debts, you know, I had even stopped paying. So I had to figure out a way to work this consolidated payment into a budget that still allowed me to live a reasonable life. And it was a challenge. You know, I had to start an actual budget, which I had never really used before. You know, I kind of as always going through to my head. But I actually had to start putting it down on paper.

But I will say one of the things that I've learned was, you know, the financial system, it gets a bad rap, but oftentimes people wait until it's too late to take action and they're, you know, they're not going to go easy on you, but there is a lot of flexibility if you take action without it getting to the point where it's beyond repair.

[00:08:28] Adam Walker: It's like take action early, right?

[00:08:29] Jordan Zangara: Exactly. Take action early. I mean, I could have taken action earlier than I did, but I was still within that window that, you know, my accounts hadn't gone to collections yet. There was no legal action. So I was in a position where, you know, my creditors were willing to negotiate.

It's not as easy if you let it get, if you kick the can further down the road. So that, that would be one thing that I took away from this is if you ever ended up in a situation like this, you know, try and get out ahead of it as soon as possible. Because that's when you're going to be in the best position to negotiate with your credit.

[00:09:07] Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah. It's so important. I mean, just getting ahead. Once you recognize there's an issue, jumping in, don't be shy, get ahead of it, get help from MMI, and it makes all the difference in the world. So I really appreciate you bringing that up.

So Jordan, it's June, it's Pride Month. I understand that you identify as gay. And so I'm curious to know, your take on, or stories that you see around how debt plays out in the LGBTQ+ community. Do you think that this affects that community differently? Or what are your thoughts?

[00:09:41] Jordan Zangara: So honestly, I don't think it's something that's really discussed within the community and I think that's unfortunate because you know, there are, one of the biggest and most unique struggles to the queer community is there's a lot of queer youth that are cut off from the resources of their families at an early age.

And that can be a huge setback financially but also educationally mentally. Things that snowball to prevent them from ever digging out of that financial setback. And there's, I don't think there's enough attention paid to helping those individuals get through that, get the necessary education on personal finance that they need, or they may have otherwise learned about at home.

Because it's, you know, it's not something that, personally, I feel as well taught in our education system. So what you learn, you often learn at home and they're missing out on that by not having that connection with their family. And I think that's something that's overlooked and needs to be focused on better and more resources applied to that.

[00:11:01] Adam Walker: I mean, yeah, I really appreciate you bringing that up because honestly of all of the struggles that I think about related to the queer community I don't think about, you know, young people being cut off from their families. Like that's just, that wasn't even on my radar. And yet, as soon as you said it, a light bulb went off and went, oh, of course, that happens.

Right. And those people need support and those people need help. And that, that's a really interesting take. I really appreciate you bringing that up. No, I mean, hopefully MMI is in a good position to help them, right? But I I had not thought of it that way before, so I appreciate that.

So then how do you think about debt stigma? I mean, we're talking about something that is difficult to talk about. It's something that most people don't talk about with their friends and family. How do you think that impacts a person's sort of willingness to seek help? Or even their ability to get out of debt?

[00:11:53] Jordan Zangara: Yeah. So, I mean, I suffered with this myself. I actually went through the process of identifying a credit counselor or a debt counselor once before I actually pulled the trigger with MMI. So I went through the whole process and then never actually followed through with the actual plan. I think it was six or eight months before I actually did follow through with MMI.

It's something that's hard, you know, it's hard to wrap your head around. You, you often feel like you did something wrong. You're a failure in some respect. And I think there's also different stigmas around different types of debt. You know, you have credit card debt, personal loan debt, things like that. They're considered bad debts. But then you have secured debts, like low auto loans, mortgages, and they're often considered good or responsible debts. But I think what gets lost in that conversation is you can be irresponsible with either kind of debt. You can take out a mortgage it's too big. You can buy a car that's too expensive.

People think that well, if the bank let you borrow that, then you should be able to afford it. And they're doing their due diligence, but you also have to do your due diligence. And so I think there's a stigma based on the type of debt that makes it more difficult. But it's hard. I mean, it's hard to, I don't know what the solution is except to tell people that you're not alone.

There are people struggling with this everywhere, all over the country, myself, I mean, not currently, but I was one of those people before I met MMI and there are solutions you just need to seek them out.

[00:13:42] Adam Walker: Yup, that's right. There are solutions. That's, that's why we're here. That's why we're here. So uh, so Jordan, this is fantastic. I really admire your story. My last question for you, what does freedom from debt look like for you?

[00:13:56] Jordan Zangara: I can breathe. I don't feel like I have this weight on my shoulder anymore. You know, the beauty of going with a solution like what MMI offers is you still get to maintain that relationship with your creditors.

You're not burning that bridge. They're still getting their money. And I've gone back since I've become debt-free and completed the program with MMI. I've gone back to a number of creditors that I previously engaged with and were involved with through my MMI payment program and they've welcomed me back because I didn't burn that bridge.

They ended up getting all of their money back so that's a great feeling. That was, I think that was one of the, you know, to go back to a previous point, that was one of what the breaking points that led me to go to MMI is I was fearful that I was going to burn all these bridges and I would never, ever be able to obtain credit for anything.

And MMI's solution and their negotiations with the creditor led for a positive outcome for everyone. You know, I can seek reasonable credit freely now. You know, I can get a car loan. I could, I don't have a mortgage at the moment I'm renting, but you know, that's hopefully in the near future.

So I'm in a much better position to to deal with those creditors than I would have been. A year ago, two years ago.

[00:15:39] Adam Walker: That's fantastic. I mean I love the work you've put in and I love the position, the healthy position that it's gotten you to. That's really amazing. And then again, I mean, it's such a short amount of time, just Bravo for that great work. Jordan this has been great. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

[00:15:56] Jordan Zangara: Of course, I'm happy to be here.

[00:16:05] Adam Walker: This guest is a real MMI client whose success is the result of hard work and dedication. While MMI cannot guarantee results, taking early action can increase the available options and improve long-term outcomes. Thanks for listening to this episode of Long Story Short, brought to you by Money Management International.

To learn more about how MMI helps people from all walks of life get unstuck and out of the vicious cycle of debt through personalized solutions that inspire hope, visit moneymanagement.org. This episode was produced by Edgewise Media. Scriptwriting and production by Clara Jennings, editing by Brandon Ellis, and show hosting by me, Adam Walker.

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